So much has been said and written about the pandemic over past eight months that you’re probably sick of the news. However, ignore that feeling and read “How the Pandemic Defeated America” from the September issue of The Atlantic.1
The piece does an excellent job of explaining in detail not only how US leadership “careened between inaction and ineptitude” in their response to the crisis, but also lays out how our fragile, expensive, and inequitable health care system made the failures of 2020 all but inevitable.
Compared with the average wealthy nation, America spends nearly twice as much of its national wealth on health care, about a quarter of which is wasted on inefficient care, unnecessary treatments, and administrative chicanery. The U.S. gets little bang for its exorbitant buck. It has the lowest life-expectancy rate of comparable countries, the highest rates of chronic disease, and the fewest doctors per person. This profit-driven system has scant incentive to invest in spare beds, stockpiled supplies, peacetime drills, and layered contingency plans—the essence of pandemic preparedness. America’s hospitals have been pruned and stretched by market forces to run close to full capacity, with little ability to adapt in a crisis.
The writer also makes clear that if we don’t make systemic changes to American society, we are in for much worse.
Despite its epochal effects, COVID?19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar.
Exactly. As I’ve ranted before in this space, we need goals for the future that are far better than the “normal” of the past.
There’s much more to the article, and it’s worth forty minutes of your time.
Read it, get angry, and work to make sure that we very soon elect new leadership that is able to understand the problems, and willing to begin fixing them.
The image really has nothing to do with the content of this post, other than being something I took during quarantine. It’s simply as absurd as 2020.
1. The Atlantic features some of the best social and political writing you’ll find anywhere, and not just when the world is in crisis. The magazine is generously making their reporting on the pandemic available to everyone with no pay wall, but their work is worth paying for.